The most important date on the calendar of the Canadian blues scene is fast approaching in Toronto. This year, the awards show is supplemented by the Blues Summit 8 conference and showcase event. Pictured: executive producer Derek Andrews.
A Conversation with Amanda Byers of TuneFind
What has a data base of 100,600 songs, 37,200 artists, 39,000 television episodes and 638,500 in store links in 13 countries?
Musicians scouting for new revenue streams have become aware of the rewards of having a recorded song included in the many binge-watch series springing up on a continual basis. Everything from NASCAR to HBO, music is playing a central role in elevating the visuals. There are numerous on-line resource brokers playing for the dollars – both sides. Charging a placement fee and charging for personal time.
This is where the ‘new money’ resides. Check out Kaleo’s – “Way Down We Go” – appearing in two episodes of Empire, also Eyewitness, Notorious, Frequency, The Vampire Diaries – no less than eleven placements.
I roped entertainment journalist Gloria Martin in for my last radio show of 2016 at CIUT 89.5 FM. Gloria reviewed film and television and I hunted down the best soundtracks of 2016. Only weeks prior I received a message from communications officer Amanda Byers of TuneFind about doing an interview. The conversation runs below. I decided to put the site to a test. This is when it all began to make sense.
I like so many am hooked on pay-as-you play and years detached from expensive cable – and am always curious about the music used in these series. Rather than hunt through reams of sites, I scanned TuneFind and not only found what I was anticipating - but found new music, to my ears far more compelling than the top ten pop list on YouTube etc. TuneFind’s story is most interesting.
Bill King: TuneFind is basically a tracking resource of music used in films and television – a way to log and determine the most popular?
Amanda Byers: That’s our focus. It started out as television then we added movies a couple years later.
B.K: How long has the company been in operation?
A.B: Since 2005. We are hitting eleven years. Our founder, Matt Garlinghouse was sitting on a couch and heard a song and desperately wanted to know. At that time, he thought the Internet knew everything and tried to find it. There was nothing, no information anywhere. It happened again the same week with another show and he thought there really seemed to be a gap here and decided to put together the very first version of our website which was super simple – very basic, with a couple of shows on it. Over the following months people started noticing soundtracks in TV shows and asking the same questions as him.
People started coming to the website to help identify the songs and built a real collaborative community to tie-in the music. Things really snow-balled from there. We now cover just under 800 television shows – many from around the world. Canada was actually one of the first regions we began expanding into because a lot of Canadian shows get fair airtime in the U.S. as well. The last couple of years we’ve expanded our international focus. Thanks to Netflix streaming stuff all over and we now have stuff from Denmark, Norway and other kind of cult hits that have taken off.
B.K: With Netflix there’s a wide range of music that can inhabit the various self-produced shows from vintage R&B to 70s punk.
A.B: You get some rich storylines. The shows are getting stronger and more complex and really interesting characters. The music supervisors who work on these shows get the opportunity to create all kinds of moods. Different characters can bring out different sounds. It must be a lot of fun for them.
B.K: How do you go about tracking and gathering information?
A.B: It really started as a fan site and has a small staff. Matt was sitting on his couch where he created the first fan site while having a day job in another world. There are three of us working on it in various capacities. A developer, me and our founder. The vast majority of content comes from either the music supervisors themselves – those choosing the songs that appear in the shows. Many will send sound lists for input. A huge amount of content actually comes from our “user” base. We have over 2,000,000 “active users” a month who are submitting sounds and we have a verification algorithm. You can submit a song but it’s not validated until we have a reasonable degree of confidence in it. With 800 shows on the site we can’t possibly watch all of them. Our “users” vote if they have heard a song or not. And help us sort out which version of the song is the right one.
Based on our “users” accuracy over time, we give them more power on the site. They can help us verify songs much more quickly. We have an eco-system built up around contribution and accuracy.
B.K: How does TuneFind make money from this?
A.B: Affiliate revenue. We wait for folks to purchase on Amazon or iTunes and we also have advertising on site. Our registered logins don’t see ads but our casual users do see advertising.
B.K: Do you have to deal with licencing or royalty issues?
A.B: No, not at all. We are sort of the Wikipedia of what songs have appeared. There are times an artist will reach out to us and ask if their song really appeared in a show. We recommend they go back to music supervisors and get the cues and if there is a case where they feel they haven’t gotten the licencing documents or paid, they can deal directly with the show.
B.K: I assume the playlist is in constant change?
A.B: We run it weekly and highlight the top songs from the past week, which is always shifting based on whatever the hot show is or big dramatic moment.
B.K: How do you track the number of plays?
A.B: Through “user” activity when people click on our play previews or click through to iTunes to purchase the song. We can see what “users” are clicking on.
B.K: What have been the most popular songs the past few years – I imagine any song in a Disney film?
A.B: So true. When I got involved with the site I was surprised how popular those songs were. I didn’t have kids at the time. It was under my radar.
Every year there are a handful of songs that really pop for people. This year there were two that really stuck with people, one being Andra Day “Rise Up!” It was used in a couple of big moments on TV and got a lot of attention. It was used in more than a few places and every time it popped up people really responded to it. It had a big moment in Grey’s Anatomy and the Blacklist. You recognize the big moment and see how the music is the perfect match for the mood and theme. It hits you and you really want to find it.
B.K: I would assume the Game of Thrones theme got people’s attention? So many period and fantasy productions since are adopting a similar tone.
A.B: HBO does a great job with their theme songs. They are evocative and have done a spectacular job of creating the right mood and tone for the next hour of your life.
B.K: WithJustified, Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men, Breaking Bad – those classic binge-watches kicked in, it was truly the opening themes that let you know where you were about to be transported.
A.B: The Sopranos was one of the first theme songs that took. I used to fast-forward through the intro but my husband made us stop and listen to the theme song.
B.K: What’s ahead?
A.B: More and more. We are trying to expand our coverage even more. The past two years we’ve had a big up-tick in the shows we are covering from the UK, Canada, Australia. We’d like to keep adding more. In this new world of streaming, people don’t have the same borders we’ve been used to. They are watching shows across all borders and we want to make sure we are covering that.
Moving forward there is an opportunity for us to look at video games. They have gotten really sophisticated in how they approach their music soundtracks.
Laura Mvula – “Show Me Love” from episode 712 – Requiem for a Slut from Shameless, absolutely floored me. I have played this for musician friends, studio engineers; anyone who will listen and all agree – this is music of great innovation and emotional power. Thanks TuneFind!
Other articles published this day
News about media and the regulatory environment both inside and beyond Canada's borders.
This year’s grand prize will include an original song commission for Canada’s 150th-anniversary celebration and a two-week songwriting residency with a celebrity mentor from the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.
In today's edition, Prozzäk returns with a new album and tour, crowdfunding for Jake Thomas, Canadian Screen Awards and Music PEI Awards nominations announced, Bublé bows out of Brits, and Tuff Gong returns to vinyl.